There is no reason at all why a fellow couldn't follow the precepts of the old English carol and give his true love a partridge in a pear tree on the first day of Christmas, 1955—as long, that is, as both are bird watchers and contemplate no loosing-off of shotguns. A good many romantics, given a little luck, will probably do so—although the more prudent may well wait a day or so and look for something less meticulously positioned: two turtle doves or four calling birds would be a lot easier to find. The bird watchers will not be alone: the Christmas holidays are not only a period of religious observance, family celebration and a prodigious exchanging of gifts in the U.S.; they are increasingly a time for the outdoors, for midwinter sports festivals and for the enjoyment of snow and sun.
Holiday sport is taken almost for granted—and it wouldn't be half as much fun if it were not—but as the year of peace and plenty, 1955, draws to its close, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED cannot help but note some of the jollity and excitement which awaits us all between now and Twelfth Night. Big city rinks are already crowded with brightly costumed skaters (pages 11-13), but this year outdoor ponds are frozen across the whole tier of northern states too, and with luck will stay that way for crisp days and night after starlit, woods-bordered, fire-splashed night. There is snow in the high country from Mount Rainier to Stowe; there are scores of new ski lifts and thousands of new skiers, and scenes reminiscent of Cortina in the Italian Alps (pages 50-55), where the winter Olympics are to be held, will be duplicated in hundreds of mountain valleys in the U.S.
Millions will be able to enjoy a hot holiday sun; there will be sailing (pages 36-38), swimming, skin-diving, and motorboating in Florida, the Gulf Coast and California and fishing all the way from Chesapeake Bay round the continent to Puget Sound. To a lot of people holiday sport will be even more casual; a friendly round of golf, a chance to drive a convertible with the top down—or a sedan with the heater going—along country roads, or simply to walk through trees on a quiet afternoon. And the holidays mean bowl games and all their pageantry; card stunts, parades, prancing cowgirls, cheerleaders and band formations. The Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns will play for the professional title on Dec. 26; the big college bowl games (pages 16-29) will overlap each other on millions of radio and television sets, January 2; before it turns to the exigencies of the new year, the whole country may feast to satiety on big-time football. Merry Christmas!
December 26, 1955
SWINK OF TCU
NO. 23 put his right foot down on the concrete floor and then, gingerly, tested it with his full weight. He winced, and most of the rest of the room winced with him.
"It's okay," said Trainer Elmer Brown in the hearty manner of a man seeking to reassure himself as well as others. "It's okay. A little heat and a little rest and he won't even miss a practice."
The burr-headed kid on the table regarded him solemnly, and the other burr-headed kids around the room regarded both solemnly.
"Well," said James Edward Swink finally, "that's good."
He slid off the table and walked, favoring his right ankle just a little, to his locker. A murmur, almost a sigh, ran through the dressing room.
In Fort Worth, this preoccupation with the health of Jim Swink (see cover) is understandable: if Texas Christian University is to live up to its favorite role against Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl on January 2, it is almost certainly going to need the services of a hale and hearty Swink at left halfback.
So when Swink came limping out of a TCU scrimmage last week, there was reason for Coach Abe Martin to blanch, and when it became certain he wasn't injured seriously, there was reason for rejoicing. This is attributable not only to Swink's undeniable football genius but to the fact that almost everyone who knows him likes him. In Texas he is already a young man to be spoken of in the same breath with Doak Walker. In Fort Worth itself, he is pushing Davy Crockett.
In two years he has scored a touchdown just about every eighth time he has carried the ball; this season alone he gained 1,283 yards rushing, scored 20 touchdowns (most of them from at least 40 yards out) and led the nation in scoring with 125 points, a unanimous All-America. And he's only a junior. "Next year," Coach Abe Martin figures, "he'll run right out of the stadium."
Even Martin isn't exactly sure what makes Swink so good—but he has some ideas. "He's like a good prizefighter," the coach says. "He always senses what the other guy is going to do before he does it. He moves his feet so fast it sounds like a covey of quail getting up. He cuts so quickly, defensive men wind up blocking themselves."
Jim's own evaluation, in his soft east Texas drawl, is on a different note. First he gives maximum credit to his blockers ("After they open the holes, all I have to do is run"), but when pressed he answers like this:
"Well, I never have run the hundred faster than 10.1, so I can't just get out and run away from many defensive backs—I guess that takes care of the 'natural ability' angle. And I guess most of the guys I've played against wanted to win at least as bad as I did. Maybe what helped me most is thinking hard about what I've got to do. Every now and then you catch the other guy napping."
Off the field Jim Swink doesn't particularly look like an All-America halfback—or act like one either. He went to TCU, a small college as big-time football schools go these days and one that hadn't turned out a great team in over a dozen years, because he liked the atmosphere. He didn't even go there on a football scholarship but got his tuition, board and books free because he could play basketball. He is studious, carries a stout schedule of courses in geology and makes excellent grades. "Jim," says one of his professors, "has the rather amazing ability to see his football skills in their proper perspective."
This is, of course, a sound trait. Even his fellow football players at TCU don't mind his good grades just so long as Jim Swink keeps on running.
A PLAN FOR SOCCER
Now assembled in St. Petersburg, Fla. are a dozen soccer coaches and 80-odd players from a dozen colleges-delegates all to the Fourth Annual Soccer Forum of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. They represent the hard core of U.S. enthusiasm for the ancient game and this year, as last year, they will deplore the fact that, although the game continues to boom as a participant sport, nobody comes to watch it and nobody writes it up in the public prints. And so, respectfully suggested for the agenda at St. Pete is a question: "Why not make soccer a spring sport?"
As of now, the colleges (and most prep and high schools) start their soccer schedules in September and wind them up toward the end of November. This means that they are in direct competition (for public interest) with the World Series and football. Soccer games usually are played around noontime on fields outside the football stadiums and the early arrivals for the featured games sometimes are beguiled into watching the soccer game for a few moments, usually without any idea of what teams are playing.
In the spring, soccer would have no such competition. Of course, there is lacrosse and baseball and track and field, but in the colleges these sports are as spectator-hungry as soccer itself. There is another thing to be said (perhaps not too loudly) for spring soccer: it would provide an excellent conditioner for the football players now barred from spring practice in many colleges. There is still another thing: with football out of the picture, soccer would have free access to the big stadiums with all their accommodations for the comfort of the fans.
Testing the spring soccer thesis, SI correspondents have taken a sampling of expert opinion around the country and herewith, as material for discussion by the delegates in St. Petersburg, are some of the findings:
At Yale, Soccer Coach John Marshall said he was in favor of scuttling any tradition, habit or practice that decreased spectator interest.
At Princeton, Coach Jimmy Reed was dubious: "You would have to compete with baseball and lacrosse which are on a pretty firm footing right now."
At Harvard, Carroll Getchell, business manager of athletics, feared the competition of lacrosse, baseball, tennis and track and field and pointed out that the Harvard soccer coach, Bruce Monroe, is also coach of lacrosse in the springtime.
In Chicago, Alvar Hermanson, University of Chicago soccer coach, thought spring soccer would be worth trying. "Things can't be any worse," he said. "We played Indiana for the conference title last fall and there weren't more than 150 spectators."
At the University of Pittsburgh, Tom Hamilton, manager of athletics, and Leo Bemis, the coach, considered that spring soccer would be impractical.
On the West Coast, Stanford, California and the University of San Francisco pointed out that Rugby has staked its claim to the spring season. At UCLA, Soccer Coach Jock Stewart's first reaction was "Good idea, but it would never work." Then he got to thinking about it and exclaimed: "It's a wonderful idea. I think I'll go to work on it!"
In St. Louis, where the high schools and municipal teams play soccer into the spring, Dent McSkimming, a sportswriter for the Post-Dispatch whose soccer writings have won him election to the soccer Hall of Fame, said: "Spring soccer may well be the salvation of soccer in the colleges. What can they lose?"
Also in St. Louis, Walter Giesler, a former president of the United States Soccer Football Association, agreed with McSkimming and added: "The time for taking action is better now than ever because of the growing sentiment against spring football practice."
Two of soccer's most dedicated evangelists, Glenn F. H. Warner, coach of Navy, and Carleton Reilly, coach of Brooklyn College, were in mild disagreement. Warner said soccer could never be forced into Navy's crowded spring schedule of athletics. Reilly would like to see soccer a spring game—and a fall and winter game, too.
So, with opinion about evenly divided in this sampling, the spring soccer issue is offered to the forum at St. Petersburg for some booting around.
PENGUINS AND GOLFERS
At the annual banquet of the National Audubon Society, diners saw a very entertaining movie about penguins, made by Olin Pettingill in the Falkland Islands. An enthralled Audubonian told a friend about it and said he was most impressed by the fact that for hundreds of years Falkland Island penguins have come ashore a good two miles from their traditional nesting grounds, then waddled clumsily and painfully across a stretch of rough, brushy country to reach the hatchery. It impressed him, he explained, because the nesting grounds were actually only a few hundred feet from the sea—but the birds, victims of instinct, followed the same trail laid down ages ago when the islands were probably quite different in topography, and on leaving the nesting area to return to the water they retraced the same laborious two miles instead of simply toddling a few yards into the South Atlantic Ocean.
"Doesn't impress me a bit," his friend said. "I've watched thousands of men standing at the first tee at the country club, less than 200 feet from the bar—and to get there they tramped around an 18-hole golf course."
HELFAND: FRIENDS AND FOES
The pronunciamento of Julius Helfand which outlawed the Boxing Guild of New York (SI, Dec. 19) reverberated in other states last week. With almost every reverberation, echo answered "Yes."
The New York boxing commission chairman heard votes of confidence from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Fred Saddy, secretary of the Wisconsin State Athletic Commission, said he would recommend that the executive committee of the National Boxing Association, made up of commission members from most states, put the NBA behind Helfand in his stand. This would give national stature to Helfand's order, limited by law to New York but aimed in effect at the International Boxing Guild, of which the New York Guild is but a chapter. There were assurances of support, too, from Jim Crowley, chairman of the Pennsylvania commission, George Barton, former NBA president and chairman of the Minnesota commission, and J. Marshall Boone, Maryland chairman.
Boone, chairman of the legislative committee of the NBA, wired Helfand that "all states that have signed agreements with the New York State Athletic Commission must stand up and be counted." States with such agreements are Maryland, Missouri, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois. The agreements provide for cooperation in respecting each other's suspensions. Massachusetts promised to recognize any Helfand suspensions. Michigan indicated it would do the same.
Lou Radzienda, NBA president and member of the Illinois boxing commission, said the question would be submitted to NBA's executive committee. A crony of Truman Gibson Jr., secretary of the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president), Radzienda seemed miffed that other NBA commissioners had expressed opinions favorable to Helfand.
There was, of course, outright dissent, for the most part shrill and feckless. Though the IBC is not directly involved, Truman Gibson Jr. met with Charley Johnston, president of the International Boxing Guild, and Jack (Doc) Kearns, secretary, then announced that Helfand had "used a cannon to shoot a fly."
This was a curious paraphrase of an earlier lament from Jimmy Powers, TV commentator on IBC fights, commercial announcer and sports editor of the New York Daily News. Powers had compared Helfand's action to killing a dog to get rid of the fleas. (Retorted Dan Parker, sports editor of the New York Daily Mirror: "The commentator in question...speaks with authority on the subject of fleas, as he is equipped with the brain of one and, like a flea, is interested chiefly in getting his bite.")
In the distraught prose with which he sometimes reports fights, Powers then paid tribute to an old benefactor, Jim Norris. It was delivered in a WRCA broadcast and its invective, directed against Norris' enemies, sank radio standards of good taste a fathom or two below burlesque.
"We owe a lot to Jim Norris," Powers said. "...His father, I knew his father in the old days, his sister Margery, and when William Woodward died, it demonstrated something to me. Nashua is going to be sold, his stable is going to be dispersed. What would happen if Jim Norris pulled out of hockey and Tom Yawkey pulled out of baseball, and all these men who are abused by people who couldn't get in the servants' entrance of their clubs to deliver toilet paper, what—supposing they pulled out of all this? We'd need their money...."
FOOTNOTE TO A MURDER
The mob slaying of Alex Louis Greenberg, financial genius of the Capone gang, drew attention once more to the persistent nexus between boxing and the underworld. Millionaire owner of the Canadian Ace Brewery, Greenberg was a friend and business associate of Truman Gibson Jr., secretary of the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president), just as Norris is a friend of the gangster killers Frankie Carbo, Sam (Golfbag) Hunt and Eddie Coco (who is now retired).
Greenberg was shot by two men as he left a Chicago restaurant the night before the Sugar Ray Robinson-Bobo Olson fight. One of the truly notorious figures in the Capone mob, Greenberg was a shareholder with Gibson in World Champions, Inc., a company established in the hope that Green-berg's Canadian Ace beer could penetrate the New York market on the prestige of Sugar Ray and Joe Louis. The two champions were given 100 shares apiece for use of their names.
But Greenberg's background, acceptable to Gibson, was an affront to the New York State Alcohol Board of Control. It refused to grant World Champions a license.
This explains why Gibson was one of the first to be questioned by Chicago police after the murder.
Back in the days when there were simply lashings of kings all over Europe, complete with palaces, mustachioed footmen, queens, queens' cousins, fellows in green uniforms blowing long brass horns and all the rest of it, and when the whole of Asia was infested with potentates wearing rubies as big as gearshift knobs (of course that was some time ago, too)—back in the old days, anyway, royal sportsmen were as thick as extras on a Cecil B. DeMille set. Nowadays there are so few that they are in danger of being knocked off their shooting sticks by the grouse, but some do survive, and last week a young fellow who can be described as the genuine article arrived for a two-month safari across the U.S.
During its course Prince Rainier III of Monaco may well surprise a good many of his auditors. The fact that royal sportsmen have been so heavily pruned by circumstance has caused the world to overlook the fact that they, like all the rest of us, have changed with the times. The prince, who is now 32, went to school in England but detests cricket. He doesn't think much of boxing either, although he has sampled it: "I took a terrible beating." He does have a passion for big game, maintains a zoo in Monaco and wrestles its half-grown lion, but he is not keen on shooting. "I had some expert advice on how to kill elephants," he confided at his pink, 200-room palace before embarking for New York on the S. S. United States. "They said, 'Shoot him in the eye.' But I kept thinking—perhaps I will not hit his eye." His Serene Highness (full name: Rainier III Louis Henri Maxence Bertrand of the house of Grimaldi) does, however, like to ride horses and he is an expert skier. He owns a 170-foot diesel-powered yacht, and uses it as a floating base for skin diving; he has been down 10 feet with an aqualung and is a bug for underwater photography. He drives sports cars and particularly enjoys his Mercedes 190 SL: "Since all the roads around here run up and down mountains the results can be very entertaining." Two years ago he drove a Panhard DB in the 3,000-kilometer Tour de France; at one stage of the race his mechanic took the wheel and wrapped the car around a telegraph pole. The prince escaped with a badly cut knee.
While in the U.S. he visited Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is as sound as a 50,000-franc roulette chip, but royalty does not just visit to go visiting and the prince has decided that the reason for his trip is a physical checkup. After that he expects to inspect sports and resort facilities in Florida and California and seek U.S. capital for his tiny kingdom (the famed gambling casino produces only about 7% of Monaco's revenue). If only to soothe his subjects, he will also doubtless meet some young ladies—he is a bachelor and if he should die without leaving an heir, Monaco will become a French protectorate and its citizens will have, ah, horrible prospect, to pay French income taxes.
His Highness will probably call on President Eisenhower but feels he should not discuss golf. "I tried to learn golf," he admits, "but every time I hit the ball a great blow and it sped down the fairway, they would say, 'Your style is wrong.' Well, I don't want to play a game just to be stylish. I think with the President I must discuss fishing."
DICTA HOWLS WET BALSA HARLEY
Dicta howls wet balsa Harley
Follow Lola lo, lo-lo, lo, lo!
Tester seizing tubby Charley
Follow Lola lo, lo-lo, lo, lo!
Darn renown or gray ape Errol
Follow lo, follow lo, lo, lo, lo!
Trolley agent jewel-eyed car oil
Follow Lola lo, lo-lo, lo, lo!
—JAMES G. CHESNUTT
CURRENT WEEK & WHAT'S AHEAD
President Eisenhower's physicians, as the press duly reported, recommended a southern vacation. Under Dr. Paul Dudley White's plan it will likely include putting and chipping about a golf course, some fishing and some bird shooting. The aim is "steadily increasing activity—both physical and mental, up to his full job." Dr. White, incidentally, found Ike swinging a golf club inside the Gettysburg White House. "He was obviously itching to get back to golf, and he wanted me to practice putting and chip shots with him."
Al Kaline, with a batting average of .340, displaced Ty Cobb as the youngest ballplayer ever to win the American League batting crown. Reason: he's a day younger than Cobb was when Ty won the championship in 1907, also at age 20.
Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons will look out upon this Feast of Stephen and his job will be to make Nashua's price (see page 30) come out at least crisp and even for Leslie Combs and friends. Nashua can look forward to steady work in Florida after a Christmas Day layoff. Fitz's feeling: "He's now in the hands of the handicappers."
Top tennis amateur of 1955, the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association's ranking committee decided, was Tony Trabert, now a professional and battling it out with Pancho Gonzales to see who is the No. 1 pro. Outlookfor Trabert: fair to poor after winning one match in the first four on tour with Gonzales.
Track athletes applauded a ban by the United Kingdom Amateur Athletic Association on preadvertised record attempts but were less pleased by a ruling that would reject records achieved with assistance of a pacer (as was Roger Bannister's first four-minute mile at Oxford). But his Vancouver race with John Landy raises no questions. That was a sure record.